Fire safety of furniture and furnishings
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.
- If you provide self-catering accommodation that contains upholstered furniture, legislation applies to you.
- All furniture (new and second-hand) in your self-catering accommodation that is covered by the regulations must comply with certain safety tests.
- An agency's liability for the fire safety of the furniture in the properties it handles depends on the terms of its arrangement with the accommodation owner.
Do the Regulations apply to me?
Yes: if you are providing self-catering accommodation that contains upholstered furniture.
What do the Regulations cover?
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended) set fire resistance standards for upholstered furniture in domestic use (new and second-hand).
The regulations apply only to upholstered furniture supplied for domestic use, a type of use that implies a low fire hazard. Most holiday lets are regarded as constituting domestic use and, therefore, are covered by the regulations.
Furniture designed to cope with a greater fire hazard (e.g. hotel beds and chairs) is available and may be offered to you by some retailers. When re-equipping your self-catering property, it will normally be for you to decide whether or not you require the new furniture to meet these higher fire resistance standards. If in any doubt, check with your local fire authority.
For simplicity's sake in the information that follows, furniture and furnishings is referred to as 'furniture'.
- Note: The Government is currently consulting on the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988, and are looking to introduce new legislation in 2017 which will provide a revised definition of furniture and specific list of exclusions, clarify what is in the scrope of the regulations and remove certain childcare products from the regulations.
What furniture is affected?
To come within the scope of the regulations, furniture must be upholstered. Such furniture would include:
- domestic furniture, including children's furniture
- beds and divans (including their bases and headboards), mattresses of any size
- sofa beds, futons and other convertibles
- nursery furniture (e.g. highchairs, cots and playpens)
- domestic garden furniture
- scatter cushions and seat pads
- furniture in new caravans.
The regulations also apply to loose and stretch covers for furniture.
What furniture is not affected?
The regulations do not apply to:
- bed clothes (including duvets)
- loose covers for mattresses
- sleeping bags
- goods made before 1 January 1950 and the materials used to re-upholster them.
Main provisions of the regulations
All furniture (new and second-hand) in self-catering accommodation that are covered by the regulations must comply with certain safety tests. These are very broadly as follows:
- upholstered furniture must pass a prescribed cigarette resistance test
- cover fabric, whether for use in permanent or loose covers, will normally have to pass a match resistance test
- filling materials for all furniture must pass ignitability tests as specified in the regulations
- all new upholstered furniture (except mattresses and bedding) and loose and stretch covers for furniture must carry a permanent label detailing compliance with fire safety requirements. Always look for these labels before buying any upholstered furniture for your property.
If you are having items re-upholstered, make sure that the materials used comply with the regulations. However, remember that the regulations do not apply to materials used to re-upholster furniture made before 1950, unless that furniture is being significantly reworked and upholstered.
Can I use fire-inhibiting sprays to increase the life of my existing furniture?
These sprays are available from a number of companies who will treat the furniture for you. However, the Local Government Association and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) advise owners to exercise extreme caution in using them because of issues relating to their durability. The treatment may, for example, be rendered ineffective by laundering.
Before deciding to have your furniture treated, you should:
- remember that the regulations apply both to covers and to filling materials
- make absolutely sure that the spray on offer is appropriate for the covers filling materials used in your furniture
- be sure that the spray will not be affected by previous treatments (e.g. waterproofing) carried out on the furniture
- bear in mind that some sprays are not water resistant and will wash out, even when fluids, such as tea, are spilled on the treated fabric
- ask the company to provide strong evidence and guarantees that the spray does do what it is supposed to do.
If the furniture which you have had treated is subsequently found not to meet the fire resistance standards specified in the regulations, it will be you (as the supplier of the furniture), and not the supplier or manufacturer of the spray, who is held responsible under this legislation.